THE BIRDS OF KILLINGSWORTH

In contrast to the common tendency to set straightforward stories for children in rhyme, San Souci (The Silver Charm, below, etc.) has taken a narrative poem and set it in prose. Unfortunately, this adaptation of Longfellow’s poem of the same name does not quite work as a picture book. Although the proto-environmental theme of the original will appeal to contemporary children, the modified narrative is lengthier and less cohesive than would be expected in a story written explicitly and originally for children of picture-book age. Only some of the character and story line changes are mentioned in the author’s note, and only some are successful. That schoolchildren participate in saving birds the townspeople have voted to kill for the sake of the crops does make the story more relevant to young readers, but confusion results from the changing of the character of Almira from a helpless townswoman with no voice in the matter to a vocal supporter of the birds. She argues in favor of the birds for the sake of their “sweet songs.” The Squire later admits she was right, but it was not the lack of birdsong that convinced the townspeople they were wrong. Rather, they dislike the resulting overpopulation of insects, an eventuality the schoolteacher warns about in the original. A nice touch in both versions is Almira’s marriage to the schoolteacher amid the tune of restored birdsong. Root’s (The Storytelling Princess, 2001, etc.) soft, delicate watercolor-and-pencil illustrations in pastel shades alternate between spot illustrations and full-page depictions of events framed by detailed borders, which add a folkloric air to the story. Occasional humorous detail for careful readers include a hunter tripping over his gun as a raccoon leaps onto his head, presumably in an attempt to protect its fellow creatures. Despite its narrative faults, this adaptation is attractively presented, and does have academic value: adults can use it to introduce children to Longfellow’s poetry and to environmentalism. Without an adult’s encouragement, however, young readers may not pick this up or stay with it on their own. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2111-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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MR. LINCOLN’S BOYS

BEING THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S TROUBLEMAKING SONS TAD AND WILLIE

Not much is heard about President Lincoln’s children, so Rabin fills a gap with this brief snapshot into the lives of two of them, Tad and Willie, which Ibatoulline illustrates with a softly drenched light that suggests yesteryear and a hint of melancholy, his images often evoking hand-tinted daguerreotypes. Working from historical documents, then embellishing to give the story a narrative, Rabin pleasingly draws two little rascals, full of practical jokes and absolute entitlement to their father’s attention, which the old stoic gives with imperturbable, beatific grace (while his aides bite their tongues). When the boys have second thoughts after condemning a toy soldier to death, they go to their father for a pardon; Abe consents with a wry “it makes me feel rested after a hard day’s work, to find some good excuse to save a man’s life.” An author’s note explains the genesis of the story and fleshes out the principals, including Tad and Willie, who, like their father, lived too-brief lives. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-06169-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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The runt of the litter of print titles and websites covering the topic.

PRESIDENT ADAMS' ALLIGATOR

This tally of presidential pets reads like a school report (for all that the author is a journalist for Fox Business Network) and isn’t helped by its suite of amateurish illustrations.

Barnes frames the story with a teacher talking to her class and closes it with quizzes and a write-on “ballot.” Presidents from Washington to Obama—each paired to mentions of birds, dogs, livestock, wild animals and other White House co-residents—parade past in a rough, usually undated mix of chronological order and topical groupings. The text is laid out in monotonous blocks over thinly colored scenes that pose awkwardly rendered figures against White House floors or green lawns. In evident recognition that the presidents might be hard to tell apart, on some (but not enough) pages they carry identifying banners. The animals aren’t so differentiated; an unnamed goat that William Henry Harrison is pulling along with his cow Sukey in one picture looks a lot like one that belonged to Benjamin Harrison, and in some collective views, it’s hard to tell which animals go with which first family.

The runt of the litter of print titles and websites covering the topic. (bibliography, notes for adult readers) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62157-035-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Patriot Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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